The Myanmar Ministry of Information on Tuesday said that 54 people were missing after a landslide in a jade mine in Kachin State buried miners and machinery late Monday night.
Search and rescue operations were launched on Tuesday for the 54 missing people.
The bodies of three people killed by the landslide have been recovered, dampening hopes of finding survivors under tonnes of mud and stones.
The missing miners belong to two companies based in Kachin state’s Hpakant townships: Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung and Myanmar Thura.
Deadly landslides are a common occurrence in the poorly regulated jade mines of Kachin state.
The mining companies, in an effort to meet the high demand for jade in China, demand fast-paced extraction from their workers with little regard for environmental or health risks.
Moreover, refuse heaps are frequented by thousands of informal miners, often described locally as “scavengers,” who have no protection under Myanmar law.
In 2018, more than 100 people were killed by landslides in the mines of Hpakant townships.
Global Witness, an environmental advocacy group, valued Myanmar’s jade production at 31 billion dollars, almost all of which is smuggled illegally to markets in China, with military-linked mining companies collecting the untaxed profits.
“A total of 54 workers for two mining companies, along with 40 machines and vehicles including backhoes and trucks, were trapped when the large refuse pile collapsed late at night on Monday, the group said.
Global Witness put the value of jade production in Myanmar at about $31 billion in 2014 and experts say most of the stones are smuggled to China.